For the second time since his election on March 13, 2013, Pope Francis is returning to the continent of his birth – Latin America – on a journey which will see him interact and communicate in his own language - Spanish. The journey is to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay, which is scheduled to last from July 5-13, 2015. The underlying theme of the journey to all three countries, ravaged by conquest, exploitation and conflict in years not so long gone by is that of reconciliation and renewal.
This is the first time Pope Francis will visit three different nations during a single journey. Just as he did in Europe by choosing Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina as the first nations to reach out to at the beginning of his pontificate, here too Pope Francis is starting with the “peripheries” as far as the Latin American and global scenarios are concerned.
It will also be the first journey in which Spanish, the Pope’s mother-tongue is spoken throughout, giving him plenty of occasions to set aside prepared texts (including 22 official discourses) and to talk and converse freely with his audiences.
In just seven days, Pope Francis will be experiencing enormous changes in climate, temperature and altitude: from 3° to 40° Centigrade, from sea level to over 4,100 meters above sea level as he travels from the Atlantic to the Andes and in between. A quick glance at the Pope’s schedule (found below) highlights the fact that the journey will be intense.
All in all, Pope Francis is to spend 48 hours in each country, and each time he will be involved in a number of “common” events such as an audience with each President; a “sit-down” with the bishops, an encounter with civil society (representatives of business, indigenous people, the world of education, culture); a meeting with consecrated men and women. In each country he will also be involved in other events and situations as he is scheduled to visit a home for the aged run by the Sisters of Mother Teresa in Ecuador, a prison (one of the largest in Latin America) and a meeting with members of the World Meeting of Popular Movements in Bolivia; a children’s hospital and a slum area in Paraguay.
Another important feature of the journey will be a Marian one as Pope Francis will gather in prayer before the “Virgen Dolorosa” in Quito and before Our Lady of Caacupé 40 km from Asunción. One important characteristic of the whole journey relates to the wealth of traditions, cultures and languages that are present on the territory. The Pope’s respect for the diversity and value of each of these is also reflected in all of the liturgies and celebrations.
Saint John Paul II traveled to all three nations: Ecuador in 1985, Bolivia and Paraguay in 1988 where he had a memorable meeting with minors, canonized Rocco Gonzales and was witness to the last days of General Alfredo Stroessner’s cruel dictatorship.
The Pope will leave Rome's Fiumicino airport at 9 a.m. on Sunday, July 5 and will arrive at the Mariscal Sucre airport in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, at 3 p.m. local time, where the welcome ceremony will be held. On Monday, the 6th, he will proceed to Guayaquil to celebrate Mass in the shrine of Divine Mercy, after which he will lunch at the Colegio Javier with the Jesuit community. Upon return to Quito, he will pay a courtesy visit to the Ecuadorian president in the presidential palace and will subsequently visit the Cathedral. In the morning of Tuesday, July 7, he will meet with the bishops of Ecuador in the Congress Centre of the Bicentenary park, where he will celebrate Mass. In the afternoon he will encounter representatives of schools and universities in the Pontifical University of Ecuador, and later, representatives of civil society in the Church of San Francisco, after which he will pay a private visit to the “Iglesia de la Compañia”. On Wednesday, July 8, he will first visit the Rest Home of the Missionaries of Charity, and will then meet with clergy, men and women religious and seminarians at the national Marian shrine, El Quinche. On the same day he will depart by air for Bolivia.
Upon arrival at the airport of El Alto in La Paz, he will give an address and, following the welcome ceremony, will transfer to the Government Palace to pay a courtesy visit to the president. From there, he will go to the Cathedral of La Paz, where he will meet with the civil authorities, after which he will travel by air to Santa Cruz de la Sierra where he will spend the night. On Thursday July 9, he will celebrate Mass in the the square of Cristo Redentor, and will meet with men and women religious in the Don Bosco school, after which he will participate in the World Meeting of Popular Movements in the Expo trade fair centre. On Friday, the 10th he will visit the Santa Cruz-Palmasola Re-education Centre and, in the same morning, will meet with the bishops of Bolivia in the parish church of Santa Cruz. The Pope will leave Bolivia from the Viru Viru Airport in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, destined for Paraguay; his aircraft is expected to land at around 3 p.m. local time in the Silvio Pettirossi Airport of Asunción.
After arriving in Paraguay, the Pope will pay a courtesy visit to the president in the Palacio de los López, where he will also meet with the authorities and the diplomatic corps. On Saturday July 11, he will visit the “Niños de Acosta Ñu” General Paediatric Hospital and will subsequently officiate at Mass in the square of the Marian sanctuary of Caacupé. In the afternoon he will meet with representatives of civil society in the León Condou Stadium of the San José School. The day will conclude with the celebration of vespers with the bishops, priests, deacons, men and women religious, seminarians and Catholic movements in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Our Lady of Asunción. Sunday the 12 will begin with a visit to the people of Bañado Norte in the Chapel of San Juan Bautista, and Mass in the Ñu Guazú field. The Holy Father will meet the bishops of Paraguay in the Cultural Centre of the apostolic nunciature, where they will then dine. His last engagement will be a meeting with young people at the Costanera riverside area. At 7 p.m. local time Francis will depart by air for Rome, where he is expected to arrive on Monday July 13 at around 1.45 p.m.
Be sure to stay tuned to Salt and Light for our extensive coverage of the Pope's journey to Latin America.